Tag Archives: RSPB

New survey aims to halt decline in rare bird

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A national survey to assess the population of one of the UK’s rarest birds, the chough, is being launched by conservationists.

The study aims to give a picture of how the birds are faring across the UK after years of decline. In Scotland, choughs are only found in a small area of the south-west, with 90% concentrated on Islay, where numbers have struggled.

A team of surveyors has now begun work to chart the fortunes of the “acrobatic” birds, known for their striking red bill and legs and flamboyant flying style.

Researchers are particularly concerned about the survival rates of young birds in their first year. It is thought that variations in weather and food abundance could be having an impact on the survival rates. Information gathered will help target conservation efforts for the recovery of the species in areas where it is in decline.

The survey is a joint initiative between RSPB, SNH and the Scottish Chough Study Group, which has been monitoring the birds on Islay since the early 1980s.

 

Big Wild Sleepover

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Pic: Dom Greves / RSPB

The RSPB is asking people to spend a night in their back garden or their local nature reserve to raise money and help save our wildlife.

The charity is also organising sleepout events across the UK for those who don’t have a garden or who want a wilder time in some inspiring locations. There will be special night time activities around the camp fire and a night time stroll, where you’ll be introduced to some special night creatures, including moths, nightjars, bats and twinkling glow worms (pictured above).

The Big Wild Sleepout runs from 16-22 June and is part of the RSPB’s new Giving Nature a Home campaign, which is aimed at inspiring everyone to provide a place for wildlife wherever they live and however big their outside space is.

Participants can spend a night in their garden, or at an organised sleepout event, discovering a whole world of wildlife on their doorstep. They can also help the RSPB to give nature a home by getting their sleepouts sponsored by friends and family, and firing up a barbecue, hosting a party and handing around the donation box.

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Garden wildlife revealed by world’s biggest survey

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More than half of people in the UK see frogs in their gardens but only a fraction ever see a red squirrel, according to the world’s biggest wildlife survey.

This year, Big Garden Birdwatch participants were asked to tell the RSPB about some of the other wildlife that visits their gardens throughout the year, including common frogs, red and grey squirrels, badgers and hedgehogs.

The RSPB hopes to use it to build an overall picture of how important our gardens are for all types of wildlife and tailor its advice so people can help their wild visitors find a home, feed and breed successfully.

Mammals
According to the results, grey squirrels came out on top overall, with 72% of people seeing them in their gardens at least once a month. At the other end of the scale, the red squirrel, was the least-seen garden visitor, with just 3% of people reporting seeing them on a monthly basis.

The red squirrel, which is threatened by a lethal virus carried by the grey, has been lost from much of the UK. In areas where the greys don’t carry the virus, the reds are still affected, essentially being out-competed by their rivals.

However, in rural Scotland, where the red still has a stronghold almost 1 in 5 people see them in their gardens at least monthly. Although still quite widespread and seen in 67% of the UK’s gardens at least once, hedgehogs were only seen regularly in less than a third of gardens and their populations have seriously declined by around 30% since the millennium.

Badgers are spotted more regularly by people living in rural areas, with 40% reporting to have seen one. However, the black and white mammal isn’t exclusive to the countryside, with 20% of suburban and 15% of urban residents seeing them in their gardens too. Deer are also much more common in the countryside, with around 30% of rural residents seeing roe or muntjac deer in their garden at some point, compared with only 5% of urban dwellers.

Amphibians
When not hibernating, the common frog takes the lead as the most abundant garden amphibian, according to the results. Approximately half of people in the UK see a common frog in their gardens at least monthly, regardless of whether they live in a rural, suburban or urban area.

When it comes to toads, 28% of people see them monthly. The warty amphibians, which have declined especially in central and southern England, are more likely to visit gardens in rural areas, with 41% of householders in these areas seeing them on a monthly basis.

Marina Pacheco, the Mammal Society’s Chief Executive, said: “It’s fantastic to know that gardens can be a vital refuge for rapidly declining species like the red squirrel and hedgehog. As well as taking part in an enjoyable survey, participants have greatly increased our understanding of the distribution and relative abundance of UK mammals.”

 

Cutting edge conservation helps wildlife

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The Softrack, a new-state-of-the-art cutting machine, is helping the RSPB to give wildlife a home in Blackloftands, the largest tidal reed bed in England.

The light and agile vehicle that is able to cut reed quickly and efficiently and can easily access the wettest areas at the heart of the reedbed. This means the RSPB is able manage the site more effectively, by creating open areas across the reedbed that benefit a huge range of wildlife including rare bitterns, bearded tits and water voles.

Pete Short, Humber Reserves Manager, says: “In the past we used a tractor with hay mower to cut the reed but the weight of the vehicle meant that it sank in the wetter parts of the reserve. This meant we had to resort to using a heavy-duty strimmer called a brush cutter, which was hard physical work and pretty miserable as we used to get very wet and cold.

“With its caterpillar rollers and lightweight design, the Softrack can get anywhere in the reedbed and cut about four times as much reed as a team of three people using brush cutters. It is saving us a lot of time, money and energy.”

As well as benefitting plants and animals, the RSPB also plans to use the Softrack to harvest reed for use as a low carbon fuel. Funded by landfill tax charity WREN, the Softrack is part of Back to the Future, a five-year RSPB project that will restore wetlands to their former glory and manage them sustainably for wildlife through modern conservation techniques.

Over the past few centuries, large areas of the Humberhead Levels’ important wetlands have been lost due to drainage schemes, which have had a devastating effect on wildlife.

Big Garden Birdwatch 2014

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Pic: RSPB

More than half a million people are expected to be watching their garden birds the weekend (25-26 January), for the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch.

It’s the biggest wildlife survey in the world and this year participants are being asked to log some of the other wildlife they see in their gardens too, including deer, squirrels, badgers, hedgehogs, frogs and toads.

Also new for 2014, is the RSPB’s LIVE bird counter, making it even easier to take part. The counter can be accessed from the RSPB website and doesn’t even need to be downloaded – simply take your laptop, tablet or smartphone to the window, enter the birds you see as you see them, while the clock counts down your hour.

Martin Harper, RSPB Conservation Director says: ”Winter has felt more like autumn for many of us and this could have a significant impact on the number of birds in our gardens.

“Birds come into gardens for food when they can’t find it in the wider countryside but if insects and berries continue to be available long into winter, numbers visiting gardens may be down. The Big Garden Birdwatch will be really interesting this year and will be a good indication of just how much the weather affects their behaviour.

“The key thing for the RSPB is that even if you feel you don’t have as many birds in your garden compared to normal, we still desperately need your results. We will be able to compare results to other mild winter years and compare regional trends, so if you don’t see many birds, we still need to know, it’s really useful information.

“The more people that take part, the greater our understanding of the threats and the solutions will be.”

Starlings hit an all time low in the 2013 Birdwatch with their numbers sinking by a further 16 per cent from 2012. Numbers of house sparrows, which are of high conservation concern, dropped by 17 percent in gardens compared to 2012, whilst numbers of bullfinches and dunnocks were down by 20 per cent and 13 per cent respectively.

The data gathered on the mammal and amphibian species will be shared with conservation partners so they can add it to their own records and will be used to help the RSPB tailor its advice on giving nature a home so people can help their wild visitors nest, feed and breed successfully.

To take part, people are asked to spend just one hour at any time of the Big Garden Birdwatch weekend noting the highest number of each bird species seen in their gardens or local outside space at anyone time. They then have three weeks to submit their results to the RSPB, either online or in the post.

Participants don’t have to actually count the other species like hedgehogs and frogs during the birdwatch hour; just tell the RSPB whether they have ever seen them in their gardens, at any time of year.

Bird lovers rally to save Christmas icon

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Conservationists, farmers and wildlife enthusiasts have rallied to the cause of one of England’s most threatened birds, the turtle dove, which has seen its worst year yet.

Numbers have crashed by 85 per cent since 1995 according to the State of the UK’s Birds report released last week, and sightings this summer were the lowest ever. The British Trust for Ornithology’s recent Bird Atlas has revealed that the turtle dove’s range has shrunk dramatically by 52 per cent between 1970 and 2010, but this year a campaign to save the turtle dove has taken off in a big way.

More than 1,250 people rang in to the Operation Turtle Dove hotline in 2013 to report sightings, helping conservationists build up a vital picture of the birds’ nesting and foraging areas. The top county for sightings were Norfolk, Suffolk and Kent.

Operation Turtle Dove, a partnership project between the RSPB, Conservation Grade, Pensthorpe Conservation Trust and Natural England, has been busy visiting farms in the South and East of England to help them put in place measures to help turtle doves bounce back. Advisors have helped unlock £16 million worth of funding for farmers to carry out agri-environment schemes which will benefit the birds.

Simon Tonkin, farmland advisor for Operation Turtle Dove, said: “Although we sing about turtle doves at Christmas, in fact they are in their African wintering grounds at this time of year. But closer to home we believe it is the loss of arable plants from our countryside which is having a major impact on them. These birds spend the summer in England where they rely on wild plants for food – but the way we farm has meant there is often no room for them at the edge of fields.

“Turtle doves are a symbol of enduring love from Chaucer to Shakespeare and their unmistakable purr is an intrinsic part of the English summer. We must act urgently to save these beautiful creatures now while we still can – because if we don’t they will disappear from England entirely within a generation.

“It has been truly heart-warming this year to see the way the public and farmers have rallied to their cause by putting conservation measures in place, raising money and spreading the word. Together we may be able to save this very special species.”

Wildlife-friendly gardens worth more to homebuyers

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A new survey has revealed that two-thirds of housebuyers would consider paying more for a wildlife-friendly garden.

The research found that seven out of 10 people in the UK would consider paying extra for a property that has a wildlife-friendly garden. The RSPB and the property website Rightmove asked 1,548 people a series of questions relating to gardens and garden wildlife.

In answer to the question ‘would you pay more for a house with a wildlife friendly garden?’ 14% of people surveyed answered ‘yes, definitely’, another 14% answered ‘probably’ and 39% said ‘maybe’.

Of those surveyed, seven out of 10 (69%) described the area in which they live as either urban or suburban; more than half (56%) have children; and more than nine out of 10 (93%) said they were happy when they saw wildlife in their garden.

The survey was carried out to get an insight into people’s knowledge and interest in UK garden wildlife following the launch of the RSPB’s new campaign, Giving Nature a Home, which aims to help tackle the crisis facing the UK’s threatened wildlife.

The charity is urging the nation to provide a place for wildlife in their own gardens and outside spaces and hopes to inspire people across the UK to create a million new homes for nature.

Sarah Houghton, RSPB campaign manager, said: “Gardens provide a valuable lifeline for things like starlings, toads, hedgehogs and butterflies, so we want to persuade people to give nature a home where they live – it could really help make a difference.”